High fat, low carb — that’s the ketogenic diet in a nutshell. That’s how you get from burning carbs and glucose for fuel to using fat and ketones instead. Judging from the thousands, if not millions of anecdotes from people who’ve successfully reshaped their physiques with keto, this method of losing weight is undoubtedly effective.
The question is: is it easy?
Well, not exactly.
The truth is that the keto diet can be just as, if not more challenging than any other diet. Although you get to eat a bunch of delicious fatty food like bacon, salmon, and a variety of egg recipes, your carb intake is also extremely restricted. Allowing only 20-50 grams of carbs per day, one gram too many is all it takes to snap out of ketosis.
That being said, any diet can be made easier if you know what types of food you shouldn’t eat — keto is no exception. So, to make your keto journey a little less complicated, here’s a list of ketogenic diet foods to avoid. A lot of these are probably already in your pantry (or in your grocery list) so having this information should help.
Foods to avoid on the ketogenic diet (and what to eat instead)
I bet we were all told growing up to eat fruit. Not only are they delectable but also nutritious.
However, the sweetness of fruit also means that they’re loaded with sugar — and having too much of them while you’re on the ketogenic diet could easily push you out of ketosis.
The good news is that you don’t have to stop eating all your favorite fruits. Berries such as strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries have less carbohydrates and, in small amounts, are great for satisfying your cravings while you’re on keto. You might want to be careful with blueberries though since it has 2-3 times more carbs than the previously mentioned berries.
Also, lemon and lime have about 7-8 grams of carbs per fruit. That’s quite a lot if you’re on a 20-gram carb limit but if you only use half of it (and save the other half for the next day), I think these fruits are great ways to zest up your salads.
Oh, and speaking of salads…
2. Starchy vegetables
Don’t get me wrong. Like fruits, vegetables are still unbelievably healthy. But, when you’re on the ketogenic diet, you’re going to want to avoid the starchy kind.
Starchy vegetables generally have more carbs and calories than their non-starchy counterparts, making them sneaky keto-killers. 1 small potato, for example, already has around 30 grams of carbohydrates.
That being said, you’re generally going to want to stay away from root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, yams, parsnips, and some other veggies that grow above ground like peas and corn.
Go the leafy greens you mostly see mixed in salads instead. Also, asparagus, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cucumbers, and peppers are great. If you want, you can enjoy these with butter or your favorite keto-friendly dressing.
Speaking of dressings, you’re going to want to stay away from a bunch of condiments.
Personally, I had trouble staying away from ketchup and barbeque sauce because I grew up eating those. Those two have a lot of sugar which can easily take you out of ketosis if you’re not careful. Other condiments you might want to stay away from include jam, maple syrup, and tomato paste.
Thankfully, there are plenty of other tasty dressings, seasonings, and spreads that you can use. For instance, mayo and guacamole are absolute bombs for keto. They’re both delicious, loaded with fat, and you can easily make both of them at home. Other condiments you can use include soy sauce, aioli, vinaigrette, and cream cheese.
If you’re not sure what to get at the grocery store, remember to always read the label.
4. Alcoholic drinks
With 13 grams of carbs per can, beer is one alcoholic drink you absolutely want to stay away from when you’re on keto. I honestly struggled staying away from this myself. Not because I’m an alcoholic — I barely even have a social life — but because when I do go out for drinks, the only thing I order is beer. Other alcohols just don’t do it for me. So, what I did was just avoid it altogether.
However, that doesn’t mean YOU can’t enjoy the occasional night out with your friends. BUT! Always remember to choose low-carb options.
Wine, at around 4 grams per serving, is definitely better but let’s be honest — you won’t be satisfied with just 1 serving. So, if you really had to drink, go with pure hard liquor such as vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and tequila. They have 0 carbohydrates and can get you buzzed with less calories.
Just a warning though. Stay away from sweetened spirits. Although their base ingredients are hard liquor, the sweeteners added to them can snap you out of ketosis. Also, even with 0-carb alcoholic drinks, try not to overdo it. People tend to make bad decisions under the influence.
Described as some of the most versatile and nutritious types of food, I consider legumes such as beans, nuts, peas, and lentils as one of nature’s healthier meat alternatives because while both of them are packed with protein, legumes have less cholesterol.
But, legumes are also starchy and that makes nearly all of them keto-killers. Lentils, for example, have 40 grams of carbs per cup. Of course, you likely won’t be eating that much in 1 day but that’s a lot of carbohydrates nonetheless.
If you wanted to fit legumes into your keto lifestyle, you’re going to have to reduce your portion sizes. So, instead of having an entire cup, settle for half or maybe even a quarter. Also, a couple of relatively low-carb beans you can try are soybeans (14 grams of carbs per cup) and lupin beans (15 grams of carbs per cup).
6. Rice and whole grains
First of all, rice is technically grain but I want to single it out. Rice — and I mean all types of rice — is something you’re going to want to avoid. I mean, even brown rice, considered as one of the healthiest types of rice, has 46 grams of carbohydrates per cup. Literally half a cup of that could cancel out your ketotic state.
Other whole grain foods are no better. For example, a cup of cooked quinoa has nearly 40 grams of carbohydrates. That being said, try avoiding food with barley, buckwheat, wheat, oats, rye, and other whole grain products.
As a substitute, you could try cauliflower rice, butternut squash rice, or shirataki rice.
This brings us to the next item on our list.
7. Bread and pasta
These two go hand-in-hand in what I think are some of the best dishes around the world. I mean, spaghetti just isn’t complete without a little garlic bread on the side, right?
Sadly, you’re going to want to avoid these, too.
Most types of bread have upwards of 10-15 grams of carbs per slice. So, eating just 1 is going to take at least half of your carb limit. Pasta isn’t any better with 25 grams of carbohydrates per 100 g.
That being said, if you’re craving pasta, I highly recommend you make it yourself using shirataki pasta from Miracle Noodle. It’s made from the same stuff as shirataki rice so it’s low carb and low calorie. Mix with a keto-friendly sauce and a bit of cauliflower bread at the side and boom! Cravings satisfied!
8. Sugars and sweeteners
Other ketogenic diet foods to avoid are these. They’re probably one of the biggest reasons why a lot of people have trouble entering and/or maintaining ketosis because, let’s be honest — they taste so damn good!
Nevertheless, you’re going to want to avoid them. And I’m not just talking about your regular white and brown sugars either. I’m talking agave, honey, and maple syrup, too!
Of course, there are natural substitutes for sugars — and for keto, stevia might actually be the best one. It’s 300x sweeter than sugar, doesn’t increase your insulin levels, low carb, and low calorie.
With that said, you still need to be mindful with how much you use stevia. Studies show that it might lower glucose levels, so you’re going to have to be careful if you’re diabetic. Plus, getting too used to it won’t help take away your sugar cravings which is ultimately what you want for keto.
9. Soft drinks (soda) and other sugary drinks
It’s no secret that soda is loaded with sugar, so it should be obvious that it’s NOT keto-friendly. However, you should also try to avoid their low-carb, diet, or zero counterparts for the simple fact that they’re basically empty calories. There’s little to no nutritional value in them.
It’s not just soda though. Fruit juices and sports drinks, although significantly healthier, are also carb-heavy.
Frankly, settling for water might be your best bet at maintaining ketosis. On the other hand, if you’re craving something sweet to drink, you could always freshly brew tea at home, add a handful of ice, a tiny amount of stevia, and voila! Keto-friendly iced tea!
10. Low-fat dairy
A lot of keto diet plans include dairy in their meals and perhaps the worst mistake you can do when following these plans is to get their low-fat counterparts. I mean, keto is all about maxing out your fat intake after all.
Moreover, low-fat dairy products often compensate by adding more sugar which is also why they’re one of your ketogenic diet foods to avoid.
On that note, a lot of dairy products — low-fat or regular — such as milk and yogurt are inherently high in carbohydrates, so take them in moderation.
As alternatives, unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk are my favorites.
11. Margarine and other trans (hydrogenated) fat
Keto is heavy on oils and fat but that doesn’t mean you use anything you see in the supermarket. You’re going to want to avoid the unhealthy ones.
Margarine, for example, is said to be man’s solution to butter shortage but it’s really not the same. For one, it has more omega 6 than butter and we’re already getting more than what’s healthy for us.
Other oils you want to avoid are canola, corn, sunflower, and soybean oil. Also, peanut oil — which I personally struggled with.
Before I ventured into keto, I used peanut oil for deep-frying chicken (it’s freakin’ tasty!) so when I started my keto journey, I had a lot of extra oil I couldn’t use anymore. It was all for the better though, so I wasn’t too worried.
Anyhow, you can use olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, clarified butter, and lard. These are all keto-friendly oils and fats.
Bottom line is…
Try to avoid sugary and starchy food because they’re ALL rich in carbohydrates. Supposedly healthy food such as some fruits, vegetables, and grains whole grains aren’t that keto-friendly, so try to steer clear of them.
Also, even though the ketogenic diet is based on eating more fat than carbs, you want to stick to healthy fat options. Choosing the unhealthy ones can work, sure, but it’s not worth it long term.
If this helped the ketogenic diet easier for you, do tell your friends about it!